Gold Fields issues ultimatum to 15,000 striking miners

Gold Fields Ltd. (NYSE, JSE:GFI) said Tuesday it will dismiss all miners who fail to return to work by Thursday at its KDC West and Beatrix plants, as the company has lost over 65,000 ounces of gold production because of strikes at its South African operations.

The miner, one of the world's main producers of the precious metal, said violence had escalated at its mines in recent days, and that overnight an employee was dragged from his car and stabbed.

"We believe that the company has been more than reasonable in the face of all of these challenges and has done everything possible to deal with striking employees' concerns, but they continue to refuse to return to work; maintain an uncompromising and hard-line attitude; and foster violence, intimidation and damage to property, said CEO Nick Holland in a statement.

The ultimatum applies to illegally striking workers at Gold Field's Beatrix one, two and three shafts in the Free State, and the KDC West mine near Carletonville, Gauteng.

Workers at Beatrix one, two and three shafts started returning to work on Tuesday morning. They had been on a strike since September 24.

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (NYSE:AU), the world’s number three-bullion producer, and Harmony Gold Mining Co. have also been hit by protests and stoppages demanding higher pay increases than the ones secured by unions. Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's largest platinum producer, fired 12,000 on Oct. 5.

Mining workers dissatisfaction in South Africa spread from platinum and gold to iron ore in early October.

The killing of 34 people at the hands of security forces at the Marikana platinum mine in August prompted the ongoing illegal strikes.

The owners of the mine, Lonmin, eventually gave in to a 22% pay increase, prompting workers at world number one platinum producer Amplats, gold giants AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields to make similar wage demands.

Globally South Africa is the fourth largest producer of iron ore, holds the same rank for annual gold production, is the number one in platinum output and holds fifth spot for steam coal.

Image: Striking workers at Marikana mine.

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